Deciding whether to proceed with assessment

The local authority will look at the information provided by you and the setting, and consider whether to carry out an EHC needs assessment.

The legal threshold for a local authority to consider, when deciding whether to carry out an EHC needs assessment, is contained in the Children & Families Act 2014 which says:

“The local authority must secure an EHC needs assessment for the child or young person if, after having regard to any views expressed and evidence submitted under subsection (7), the authority is of the opinion that:

(a) the child or young person has or may have special educational needs, and

(b) it may be necessary for special educational provision to be made for the child or young person in accordance with an EHC plan.” (36.8)

In deciding whether to assess, the local authority may develop criteria as guidelines and take into account a wide range of evidence. Some examples outlined in the SEND Code of Practice (9.14) include:

  • academic attainment and rate of progress 
  • the nature and extent of SEN
  • the action already being taken by the setting
  • that where progress has been made, it has only been as the result of intervention and support over and above what is usually provided
  • physical, emotional and social development and health needs, and what has been done to meet these
  • where a young person is aged over 18, the local authority must consider whether the young person requires additional time, in comparison to the majority of others of the same age who do not have special educational needs, to complete their education or training. 

Within 6 weeks of the initial request, the local authority must let you know their decision. 

Refusal to assess

Where they have decided an EHC needs assessment is not necessary, they must tell you why and include the following information about:

  • your right of appeal
  • independent disagreement resolution and mediation
  • how to get further information, advice or support

The SEND Code of Practice 2015 says:

The local authority must give its reasons for this decision where it decides not to proceed. (9.17)


The local authority should also provide feedback collected during the process of considering whether an EHC needs assessment is necessary, including evidence from professionals, which the parent, young person, early years provider, school or post-16 institution may find useful. (9.19)

I don’t understand why the local authority refused to carry out an assessment?

This can be a difficult time for you as a parent if you are concerned about the progress and support for your child, it’s important to fully understand why the local authority reached this decision. You can contact the Family Services Team at the local authority for more information about their decision and for their view on what the next support steps for your child might be.  You can also ask if they will meet with you, ahead of any conversation prepare your questions.

When preparing your questions, think about the reasons you are seeking an assessment and what is hoped will be achieved by the process. Reasons usually fall into one or more of these categories:

  1. There are gaps in knowledge – it is not known what the needs are, and an assessment is the only way to determine these
  2. There is little or no progress despite support from the setting
  3. The setting need help from the local authority to provide what is needed

Progress is not limited to academic attainment and can be across any of the four broad areas of need (communication and interaction; cognition and learning; social, emotional and mental health difficulties; sensory and/or physical). See 6.28 to 6.34 of the SEND Code of Practice for a full definition). 

Some ideas for when you speak to the local authority…

  • Ask them to explain what they expect the setting to provide. Make notes about this because you might need to go back to the setting to discuss this with them.
  • Ask them to be clear about the evidence they would need before carrying out an assessment. For example, this might be more information about your child or young person’s progress and the impact of any previous advice or recommendations.
  • Check they have all the evidence that was provided. Share any new information such as recent letters or reports.
  • Was there any information you forgot to put in your family views form that you would like to share? 
  • Are they recommending the setting seek any specialist advice? Ask about the service being suggested and what is hoped to be achieved by their involvement.
  • Have the local authority considered all of your child or young person’s needs? For example, you might feel the local authority have identified support or a specialist service to help with some areas of need, but not all.

Take notes of what is said to help you remember. After your discussions you should have an understanding of why the local authority reached their decision, even if you do not agree with the reasons.

I don’t agree with the ‘refusal to assess’ decision, what can I do?

You have the right to mediation and to appeal this decision. 

Decision to carry out an EHC needs assessment

If the local authority decides to carry out an assessment, they will let you know in writing. 

Watch our video ‘Refusal to do an EHC needs assessment’

Read script of recording (opens PDF)


Education, health and care (EHC) needs assessment

Download EHC needs assessment leaflet